Out of West Nassau High School, Kendrick didn't get any attention from scouts or college recruiters.
Worse yet, when he was a freshman in college, Kendrick was cut from the baseball team. He then went to little-known St. John’s River Community College in Florida, where Angels area scout Tom Kotchman, on a tip from Ernie Rosseau, the coach at Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Florida, ventured to see Howie and loved his bat so much he urged the Angels to draft him in the 10th round, signing him for $100,000.
Of growing up outside of Jacksonville, Florida, Howie said, "It was a challenge. My grandmother (Ruth Woods) raised me because my parents were both in the service. (He never knew his father, and his mother was an Army staff sergeant who traveled extensively, away from home for months at a time.) The maternal grandmother's neighborhood was a pretty troubled environment, but baseball's what kept me away from all that—she kept me away from that too. Growing up in that kind of straightened me out for the long run because I saw so much stuff with drugs and cops everywhere that I knew how bad it could get if you let it. But baseball and the fact that my grandmother would beat my behind kept me away from that stuff. Those are two of the main reasons I am where I am today."
Kendrick and his two sisters lived with Mrs. Woods in her double-wide trailer at the end of a dusty road on the outskirts of Callahan. The town's population was just over 900, and most of the people seemed to be related to Howie.
By the time Kendrick made his big league debut, on April 26, 2006, Mrs. Woods was stricken by lung cancer, the result of a lifetime of smoking. She watched that first game at home, telling everyone who called, "That's my boy on TV playing baseball!"
After that first game, Howie sent her the game jersey. She died later that year.
Kendrick grew up a Braves fan, with favorites like David Justice and John Smoltz. And he also was a fan of Hank Aaron, whose clean stroke Howie admired, watching old video footage of the Hammer.
Howie will tell you he can't remember a time when he couldn't hit. Even as a five-year-old, it came easy. Back then, he used to play a game called Strikeout with his sisters and cousins. They'd use a broom handle as a bat and collect shirtfuls of small, spiky burrs that fell off a sprawling tree in his grandmother's backyard in Callahan, Florida.
One kid hit, and the others pitched the burrs or fielded. Whiff, or hit a pop-u that was caught, and the next hitter was up. Given that the burrs were gumball-sized, staying up at the plate was real tough, right?
"You'd think so," says Kendrick's younger sister, Michelle, "but we couldn't strike him out. Sometimes he'd be up there hitting for 20 or 30 minutes. Usually, I'd just quit." (Chris Ballard-Sports Illustrated-3/24/08)
In 2003, Kendrick was fourth in the Pioneer League in hitting. After going 4-for-40 to start the season, Howie hit .404 in July and .451 in August.
In 2004, Howie won the Midwest League batting title at .367 after hitting only .241 in April. That's because he hit .410 from May through August.
After the 2005 season, Kendrick tied for second in the Arizona Fall League with a .380 batting average while totaling a league-leading 46 hits.
Before 2005 spring training, Baseball America rated Kendrick as 8th-best prospect in the Angels' organization. And in 2006, the magazine had moved Howie all the way up to second best in the farm system, behind only Brandon Wood.
Howie is polite, and quite reserved. He is more likely to be working on a crossword puzzle than joking around in the clubhouse. Mostly, he is a fanatic about practice. A former minor league teammate said he never heard Kendrick have a conversation that was not about baseball.
Asked how he got the nickname Howie, Kendrick said, "Most people—my family and everyone—call me Howard. My second year in (Rookie Pioneer League) Provo, Utah, I had a baseball card made. They asked, 'Do you prefer Howard or Howie?' And I said, 'It doesn't matter.' They put Howie, so that's what everybody calls me now. I like my name."
His other nickname is Truck. He owes that nickname to late singing legend Eddie Kendricks, of the Temptations—courtesy of Bud Black, former Angels pitching coach.
"In my first big league camp," Kendrick said, "Buddy Black asked me if I'd heard of Eddie Kendricks from the Temptations. He started calling me 'Truck' from one of his songs, 'Keep Truckin'.' Ever since then I've been 'Truck.'"
January 6, 2007: Howie and his wife, the former Jody Jensen, were married. They have two sons, Owen and Tyson.
A blood pressure test taken after the 2007 season caught his attention. It was higher than it should have been. With a family history of high blood pressure, Kendrick did what a smart hitter always does. He made adjustments.
"I was up to 217 pounds," he said. "I dropped 10 pounds on the new diet. Last year, I played at 210 all year, and I'm lighter than that now.
"I got a stress test in (2008) spring training, and it came back normal. High blood pressure runs in my family—my grandmother had it—so I had to be concerned about it. It's something I have to watch, because it's in my genetics. And my wife was really concerned."
Jody began making healthy meals for her husband, boneless chicken breast or turkey, and not red meat.
In the offseason before 2009 spring training, Kendrick worked out at Pro Advantage. And, under the guidance of former Diamondbacks and Brewers strength and conditioning coach Keith Wilson, Kendrick became something of an authority on hamstrings and what he needs to do to keep them sound.
"You need to stay on it—you can't take anything for granted," Kendrick said. "I want to eliminate every option I can to getting hurt."
Howie's birthday falls on the perfect date—July 12. As a professional baseball player, that either means a few days off from work or an upcoming trip to the All-Star Game.
On December 25, 2008, Howie's wife, Jody, delivered their first child, a son they named Owen Howard Kendrick. He was two weeks early, but they were ecstatic.
"It makes me proud to know I'm going to be in my son's life," Kendrick said. "I never had my dad in mine. I've never met him. He lives in Ohio. He's also Howard, but everyone calls him Kenny. I'm very open if we ever meet.
"I had two older sisters, and it was a military family. My grandmother raised all three of us. I'm actually grateful that we were raised in a stable home. I graduated from high school with a lot of the kids I went to grammar school with, and that wouldn't have happened in a military family with all the moving around.
"Our grandmother taught us to be respectful. She instilled a lot of discipline and hard work in us; that's one of the reasons why I'm here. She passed away in '06 with cancer." (Lyle Spencer-MLB.com-2/20/08)
During the offseason before 2009 spring training, Kendrick had a workout program designed to help him prevent hamstring strains.
"I need to maintain my smaller muscles, like the hip flexor, to help avoid hamstring injuries."
Working with trainers from the Pro Advantage facility in Tempe, Kendrick, who lives in Arizona during the off-season, developed a new routine that focused on core muscles and targeted some of the smaller muscle groups he may have ignored in the past.
"If smaller muscles around the larger muscles aren't strong, then your larger muscles have to work harder," Kendrick said. "It definitely opened my eyes." (Mike Digiovanna-LA Times-2/22/09)
February 10, 2011, Howie's wife, Jody, brought son Tyson into the world, joining their first son Owen.
The menu never varied, by the baseball player’s choice. After every home game, Howie Kendrick would drive to his host family’s residence in the Provo foothills and Melanie Barber would serve grilled chicken with barbecue sauce, accompanied by beans and rice.
The food, the family and the late-night talks about life and baseball around the kitchen counter played a major role in Kendrick’s climb through the Los Angeles Angels’ organization.
Kendrick played at least 42 games at every level of the Los Angeles Angels’ minor league system before sticking in the Major Leagues.
Kendrick’s trek was steady, without skipping any steps. He’s among few players who stopped at all six levels of the minor leagues before establishing himself in the majors — and even then, he needed a couple of return trips to Triple-A before thriving with the Angels.
Arriving in Provo in 2003 as a second-year pro at age 19, Kendrick was "a scared little kid," by Chuck Barber’s description.
Kendrick wouldn’t disagree, in detailing a minor-leaguer’s journey. "It’ll turn you into a man, I can tell you that, because you really have to take care of yourself and just really have to understand what you have to do, day in and day out," he said. "You really kind of grow up in the minor league system."
Raised mainly by a grandmother (he never knew his father), Kendrick would come straight home from BYU’s Miller Field after those Provo Angels games, then spend his mornings at a gym and report to the ballpark early. Even beyond his .368 batting average that summer, "You just knew Howie Kendrick was going to make it," Barber said.
He came to regard Kendrick as "a third son." Charlie and Josh Barber, employed as team batboys at ages 17 and 15 that summer, would introduce him as their brother.
That’s the kind of relationship that developed between an African-American second baseman from northwest Florida and a baseball-loving auto dealer’s family in Utah. "We had a lot of father-and-son talks," Barber said, "because he didn’t have a father."
Shortly after Thanksgiving, having returned to Florida, Kendrick asked Barber if he could come back. He drove his truck 2,200 miles to Provo, where he worked as a parts delivery man at the dealership and stayed with the family until reporting to spring training in Arizona.
After making stops in Iowa, California and Arkansas, Kendrick was assigned to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees to start the 2006 season. He moved into his old bedroom in Provo and commuted. In four seasons, covering stints with five teams—starting in Provo and ending in Salt Lake City—Kendrick’s composite batting averages were .368, .367, .368 and .369.
This guy could always hit, except when he couldn’t. Recalled to the Angels after only two weeks of Triple-A ball in April 2006, Kendrick was sent down three weeks later. Pitchers had discovered his weakness for off-speed stuff. He regained confidence, thrived with the Bees, and went back up in two months.
Yet in ’09, when he was struggling with a .231 average, the Angels sent him to Salt Lake again in June. That’s when Kendrick’s career was revived for good. He returned to Anaheim after three weeks, batted .351 over the rest of the season and played in the 2011 All-Star Game.
Kendrick subsequently signed a four-year, $33.5 million contract. He’s remained consistent during a disappointing 2013 season for the Angels, batting .310 as "an extremely productive player," manager Mike Scioscia said.
In Provo, Melanie Barber still serves the dish she’s labeled "Howie Kendrick Beans." At Chuck Barber Mitsubishi in Orem, autographed bats from Provo/Orem rookie-league teams are propped in a corner of the owner’s office. Barber scrolls through his phone to find a photo of Kendrick, posing with the player’s infant son.
Those memories, those feelings and those influences that originated 10 years ago flow in both directions, Kendrick would assure the Barbers: "To me, essentially, they are family."
In 2006, Kendrick had a one-on-one collision with actor Ben Affleck during his rookie season, in the stands on the first base side of Fenway Park. On a foul ball that was hit towards where Affleck was sitting, Kendrick beat Affleck to the ball, recording the out.
Fans sitting nearby booed Affleck for not taking the ball away from Kendrick. The event landed Kendrick's picture in People magazine. In an edition of the syndicated Access Hollywood, Kendrick presented Affleck an autographed baseball for his birthday.
Feb 22, 2017: The Phillies traded for Howie Kendrick in the offseason to add some punch to a lineup that finished last in baseball in runs scored last year. How much he ultimately contributes on the field won't be determined until the regular season. But general manager Matt Klentak also sent Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney to the Dodgers for the versatile 33-year-old because he wanted an experienced hitter who the younger players could observe, emulate and learn from. And that part of the equation already appears to be a success.
It's not a coincidence that third baseman Maikel Franco and shortstop Freddy Galvis have been assigned to the same hitting group as Kendrick this spring. Not only that, but the outgoing Kendrick also makes it a point to joke with them in the clubhouse as well as talk about the finer points of the game at every opportunity.
"He's helped me a lot," Franco said. "I'm close to him. He wants to help me, and I can learn from him. He's been around the league. He knows a lot about hitting. As a young player, that's what I'm looking for. That's what I'm trying to figure out. Talking to him about hitting and situations, that's what I'm looking for right now."
Howie, who has been penciled in as the Phillies' regular left fielder for 2017 after batting .255 while playing three infield positions as well as left for the Dodgers, said this is just the natural order of the game.
"I was there at one point," Kendrick said. "I know what that's like. Luckily enough for me, my first few years with the Angels, I had guys like Garret Anderson and Vladimir Guerrero and Tim Salmon and some of those guys. They kind of ushered you along a little bit, showed you the ropes.
"They have great talent here, a lot of young guys who can play the game. I think that because they're so young, they don't necessarily have anybody to look to as far as understanding the game and growing in the game. If we all get moving in the right direction and play the game the right way and play hard, I think we can do a lot of good things."
Sometimes Kendrick will offer advice. Sometimes he'll answer questions. Sometimes he'll just provide an example of how to prepare. And sometimes he may have to play the role of the strict uncle.
"I was fortunate enough to play with some guys who played the right way," Kendrick said. "If you weren't hustling and doing the right things, they would come up and let you know. I feel like if guys aren't playing the game the right way, I want to be the person to step up and say, 'Hey, man, we can better. You can do better.'
"I play the game the right way and I play it hard, and hopefully that can rub off on some other guys, that they see that and say, 'Hey, I want to do that, too.'" (P Hagen - MLB.com - Feb 22, 2017)
Howie, by his own account, was one of the top high school baseball players in the state of Florida as a senior. However, one of the few college programs that showed any attention was the University of Florida. "No real [recruitment] interest I guess, in a sense," recalls Kendrick, who went to West Nassau High near Jacksonville.
Kendrick said he tried out for about "seven or eight" junior college baseball programs. The last one was St. John's River State College in Palatka, Fla., which offered him books and tuition. It appeared that Kendrick would redshirt as a freshman, but he quickly made an impression.
"In the fall I played well and the second baseman, Chad Williams, told me, 'Hey, man, I am going to the outfield so you can play second.' I was supposed to redshirt and I ended up playing," said Kendrick. "That helped me get drafted. I was thankful to Chad for giving me the opportunity."
Sixteen years after his professional debut, Kendrick is still often overlooked despite his impressive credentials. That included a career average of .291 going into this season with 313 doubles, 104 homers and 123 stolen bases in 1,435 games over 12 Major League seasons.
Washington catcher Matt Wieters was with the Baltimore Orioles for several seasons and faced Kendrick many times. "I always thought he was one of the most underrated players in the big leagues," Wieters said. "He gives a manager so much flexibility. He can rest [starters] when you need it. Just a professional hitter; calling games against him, it is tough to find a place to go" with a pitch to get him out.
Kendrick, 34, was drafted in the 10th round by the Los Angeles (then-Anaheim) Angels in 2002 and simply mashed the baseball throughout his Minor League career. Kendrick put together nine quality seasons with the Angels, two more in Los Angeles with the Dodgers and began the 2017 season by hitting .340 in 39 games with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals acquired him in late July just prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.
He played 37 games in left field and also saw action at first base, second base, and in right field. Kendrick was a free agent at the end of the year but signed a two-year contract with the Nationals in January 2018. "When we were trying to find alternatives, there were alternatives. But they weren't as perfectly formed as Howie Kendrick was," President of Baseball Operations & General Manager Mike Rizzo stated. "His skill set, his ability to play every day and come off the bench. He can play multiple positions. And then you have the extra additive skill set that he's a leader in the clubhouse, and really in the short stint here, turned into one of the leaders here. That was just kind of icing on his performance."
"I will play some infield in 2018. I already know that. Being able to help the team win is the biggest thing. I did it last year," Kendrick said. "I feel a lot more comfortable [playing outfield] now. I feel this year I will be even better at it. As a team and a front office, they have a lot of confidence in me. I can give guys a breather here and there and do my part."
"He's awesome," new Nationals Manager Dave Martinez told reporters. "I can't say enough about him. His leadership in the clubhouse, and the fact that he can do so many things and hit anywhere in the lineup and never complain ... he's a good guy to have around. He's going to help us win a lot of games." (Driver - mlb.com - 4/15/18)
No matter where Howie has gone in his career, he has been part of winning teams. He has appeared in the Postseason with the Angels from 2007-2009 and 2014, with the Dodgers in 2015 and 2016, and with the Nationals in 2017. "Coming up in 2006 with the Angels, we didn't make the Postseason and it was an eye opener," Kendrick said. "After that, we made it a few years in a row. When you have a team that is consistent and you can do things the right way, you can start winning, even make the World Series. That is the epitome of what we want to do."
Kendrick hopes to be part of a winner again in 2018. "We have the same guys coming back for the most part. It is going to be a great year," he said.
The veteran embraces the role of a clubhouse leader and mentor to developing players. "I love talking to the young guys. They get their work in; everyone shows up ready to play every day. I try to help them understand we have all been there. The biggest thing is having those guys feel comfortable," Kendrick said.
One still-young outfielder with the Nationals is Bryce Harper, 25, who has an MVP Award and several All-Star game appearances on his resume. Kendrick enjoyed watching Harper as a teammate for the first time. "It was impressive," Kendrick said. "The guy has been amazing. He has been a phenom even before he came into pro baseball. The guy works hard. He wants to get better; that is scary. I have been really impressed with him since coming over here."
Kendrick was able to work out in the 2017 offseason in Arizona with Kevin Long, the new hitting coach for the Nationals, on the field at Paradise Valley Community College. Long grew up in Phoenix, played at the University of Arizona and went to high school with Kendrick's brother-in-law. "He threw batting practice to some of us. We have already started making some minor adjustments," Kendrick said. "He knows the game of baseball. It is going to be a fun year for all of us."
Kendrick was happy to come back to the nation's capital, even though he has lived with his wife and two sons in Arizona for several years. Last year he was able to see some of the major sites in Washington, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture. "I love D.C. History is one of my favorite subjects. My kids love it, too. I love the Air and Space Museum," he said. (Driver - mlb.com -/15/18)
Howie received his first tattoo about 10 years ago, wanting to recognize his wife, Jody, by having their wedding date: "1/6/2007," on his right arm. Kendrick, who at the time played for the Angels, felt closer to Jody by looking at his arm, so Kendrick wanted more. Kendrick still wasn't satisfied after adding tattoos of his sons' initials, "OK" and "TK," to reminisce on Owen and Tyson.
Hummingbirds often flew around Kendrick's family home in Jackson, Fla., when he was growing up. Kendrick acquired a hummingbird tattoo on his neck and ribs to remember his grandmother, who he lived with.
"It's a form of expression. It's who you are," said Kendrick, who now has ink on almost every inch of his body. "Most guys will say, 'Oh, I got this because of this,' or you'll get them in memory of someone." (Melnick - mlb.com - 8/23/18)
Dec 4, 2018: Kendrick began running on an anti-gravity treadmill, more than six months removed from rupturing his right Achilles tendon. He has been walking around without limping or limitations, and he said he does not even think about the injury.
"I'm expecting to be ready for spring," Kendrick said this weekend at the Nationals' annual WinterFest event. "I know things happen. But if all things keep going the way they're going right now, I should be ready for Spring Training 2019."
It's encouraging for the Nats, because Kendrick is penciled in as the primary starter at second base next season. He is likely to share playing time with Wilmer Difo, who can be an excellent defender, but Difo has not hit consistently during his time in the Majors. Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia are both promising young prospects (ranked Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, in the organization by MLB Pipeline) who have some middle-infield experience, but while Kieboom could make his Major League debut at some point in 2019, neither is likely to be ready to take over as the Opening Day starter. So the Nationals have to decide whether they think Kendrick will be ready, or if they should explore the free-agent market at second base.
MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported recently that the Nats have at least had preliminary talks with DJ LeMahieu and monitored the markets for infielders Jed Lowrie, Josh Harrison and Marwin Gonzalez. Washington checks in on nearly every major free agent, searching for potential value and ready to strike if it can find it, but general manager Mike Rizzo has continued to publicly downplay the need for a second baseman.
"We feel good about where we're at with second base," Rizzo said. "Difo is a terrific defender at second base and at shortstop, which is very, very valuable. Howie's a terrific second baseman. We've just got to see how he comes back from the Achilles. We know he's an elite hitter in the batter's box, and we'll see how he moves around at second base."
The Nationals were in a similar position about a year ago, when Daniel Murphy was recovering from offseason knee surgery but insisted he would be ready to start the season on time. Washington went on to sign Kendrick to a two-year deal later in the offseason, which turned out to be much-needed insurance.
Kendrick batted .303/.331/.474 for 112 wRC+ in 40 games until he suffered his season-ending injury in May, 2018. The Nats would be betting he could return to a productive level, even at the age of 35 and coming off a major injury. But Kendrick has not played more than 100 games since 2016, and it is unclear what playing time restrictions he would enter with next season. And the Nationals cannot know for sure until Spring Training.
"Right now I don't see any limitations. I can do what I can do, but I think February, 2019 will tell me when I get there," Kendrick said. "Right now, everything's been feeling good. I feel great. I feel like I could sprint now, but in reality, I'd be dumb to do that. I feel good. I feel like where we're at right now is a really good spot." (J Collier - MLB.com - Dec 4, 2018)
July 16, 2019: Kendrick received the MLB Players Alumni Association "Heart and Hustle" award for the Nationals. This esteemed award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game. The Heart and Hustle Award is also the only award in Major League Baseball that is voted on by former players.
Nickname: "TRUCK" -- Kendrick received the nickname from his former manager Mike Scioscia during his time with the Angels, and “it’s just one of those nicknames that kind of just stuck,” he said. Kendrick used to own an English bulldog that he then nicknamed “Truck” and currently owns a french bulldog that he calls “Mack Truck.”
Oct. 15, 2019: Kendrick won the NLCS MVP award. He led the Nationals’ offense during their four-game sweep of the Cardinals. He hit .333, with four of his five hits going for extra bases.
Nov. 8, 2019: Kendrick was honored with the Heart & Hustle Award at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association’s 20th Annual Legends for Youth dinner.
April 18, 2020: Howie Kendrick sat down with MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds.
On the morning of Saturday, April 18, MLB Network’s Play Ball which was led by Harold Reynolds had a sitdown interview with playoff legend Howie Kendrick at Kendricks place. For those that missed it, we have you covered with a break down of what was discussed. Reynolds and Kendrick started things off by going over Howie’s love for photography. He has been practicing the art for nine years now. He thought he could do it and just jumped on in. The Network showed some examples of Kendrick’s pieces and he explained he loves his family pieces. This just goes to show how good of a person he is off the field.
Reynolds and Kendrick then went on to discuss some of the top players Howie has played with over the years. After all, he has been teammates with Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto. Kendrick explained the thing he loves the most about Trout, is how he is a great person off the field, due to the fact he was always in a good mood. It also helped that Trout got along with Howie’s two sons. He stated, “You never knew if he was 0-5 or 5-5”. Then Kendrick started to compare the young phenom, Juan Soto, to Trout. When asked about Soto, Kendrick stated that he has, “a lot of the similarities that Mike has”. This should come to no surprise. Soto is only 21 and already proved himself as one of the most feared sluggers in the league.
Next, the interview briefly covered Howies 2019 playoff heroics, mainly his NLDS Game Five grand slam and two-run shot in Game Seven of the World Series. Reynolds asked the important question, what was going on in Howie’s mind when he was in the on-deck circle before he hit his grand slam? Kendrick had the perfect answer. “I was talking to God on Deck”…”I said to god, hey man if you’ve got anything for me, nows the time.” He added, “When I hit that ball it was just pure adrenaline. I will remember that for the rest of my life just because it was such a huge hit. And it lifted us. It gave us a chance to go to the World Series.”
His at-bat against Kelly was a similar situation to his at-bat against Will Harris in game seven of the World Series. When he waited for his at-bat against Harris, Kendrick said he was. “Talking to god again.” If you’ve got something for me, again nows the time.“ He added, ” First pitch I’m looking heater and he got one down. When I hit it, I could tell Springer wasn’t going to catch it”… “Once it hit the foul pole, Same emotion as the dodger game”…”It was such an exciting moment to be in the World Series. I will never forget that.”
Next, the two went outside and joined Kendricks two young sons Owen and Tyson. There Kendrick broke down the two’s swings. Kendrick put emphasis on holding your finish at the end of your swing. He used Ken Griffey Jr. as an example of being excellent at doing this. After the two young sluggers took practice rips, the four split up into teams of two to play Wiffle ball. Tyson the youngest and his dad faced off against Owen the oldest and Harold. Tyson and Howie led off the scoring, with five runs in the bot of the first. Tyson went deep four times while his dad added a homer of his own. Down to the last inning, Harold and Owen tied it. But Howie came up clutch once again, hitting a solo shot to end it. Should we even be surprised?
After, Kendrick and Reynolds went to Howie’s garage to talk about his love for cars and his amazing home run celebrations with Adam Eaton.
Eaton asked Kendrick about making a home run celebration and Kendrick answered with,” How about we just drive cars?”. Such a simple answer to an awesome celebration.
The interview ended with Kendrick going over what he’s been doing during the quarantine. He explained that he’s, “Been able to work out three-four times a week.” Howie has accomplished this by doing some tee work and trying to get in the cage. He added, “Biggest thing is trying not to get sick.” Aren’t we all, Howie?
Fifteen seasons into his Major League career, the rush from anticipating that first game never gets old for Howie.
“I’ll still have the same butterflies I have every year,” Kendrick said. “I think every year we start the season, you never forget that feeling. Opening Day since I was a kid has always been those butterflies.”
The 2019 World Series hero is playing catch-up after being cleared for workouts one week ahead of the season opener against the Yankees. He has participated in two intrasquad scrimmages. “The big thing is getting at-bats in and trying your best to get your timing down,” Kendrick said.
Kendrick is a candidate to play first base and DH this season. He stayed ready while waiting to be cleared by hitting into a net and completing “a lot” of pushups.
A little extra motivation arrived at his home, too, when general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez delivered his World Series championship ring.
“Getting that ring, it takes me back to going down Constitution Ave with the parade and being in the nation’s capital,” Kendrick said. “To be able to bring a championship like that, a lot of guys playing their whole career don’t have an opportunity to do that. That all comes back when I put on my ring and I look at it. It was definitely well done.” (Camerato - mlb.com - 7/17/2020)
Dec 21, 2020: The Major League career of a Nationals World Series hero has come to a close.
Howie Kendrick announced his retirement on Instagram following 15 seasons in the big leagues. The 37-year-old posted his decision with a photo of himself and his family holding the championship trophy.
“A dream that started as a 5 yr old boy in the town of Callahan, Florida,” Kendrick wrote. “I will be forever grateful for the many life lessons baseball has taught me on this 32 yr journey.”
Kendrick became a free agent this offseason after the Nationals declined their portion of the 2021 mutual option on his contract. He had entered Spring Training in ‘20 planning for it to be his last year, but the shortened season led him to give his next move some extra consideration.
“I love baseball, I love the game,” Kendrick said in September, after ending the season on the injured list with a left hamstring strain. “That’s one of the toughest decisions you’re ever going to make.”
Kendrick’s career began when the Angels selected him in the 10th round of the 2002 June Draft. He played nine years with them -- earning an All-Star selection in ‘11 -- before spending the next two seasons with the Dodgers. From there, he was traded to the Phillies in ‘16, and then acquired by the Nationals on July 28, 2017. Kendrick clicked in Washington, and he re-signed with the Nats as a free agent in ‘18 and ‘19.
In his second-to-last season, Kendrick solidified his place in baseball history with clutch performances that powered the Nats to their first World Series title. After making a comeback from an Achilles injury in 2018, Kendrick hit a standout .344 in the '19 regular season. That was a sign of things to come in October.
Kendrick belted a go-ahead, 10th-inning grand slam in Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers, and he was named the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS against the Cardinals. On the biggest stage, he clanged the go-ahead homer off the right-field foul pole in Game 7 of the World Series to help lift the Nats over the Astros for the ultimate prize.
“Last but not least, my Beloved Washington Nationals, thank you for embracing me as one of your own,” Kendrick wrote in his announcement. “I feel as though I’d been a National my whole career and the wild, humbling and crazy ride we had in 2019 truly culminated everything I’d learned in my career, and we all became World Champions.”
Kendrick concludes his career with a .294/.337/.430 slash line and .767 OPS. He tallied 1,747 hits, 724 RBIs and 127 home runs over 1,621 games (5,950 at-bats). Defensively, Kendrick had a .986 fielding percentage from games played at first, second and third base and in the outfield. Among all active players, he ranks eighth in singles (1,228) and assists (3,323).
“I will always love the game of baseball and will constantly reflect on the lifelong memories made,” Kendrick wrote. “For now, it’s time to drop the mic and enter a new stage of my life.” (J Camerato - MLB.com - Dec 21, 2020)
June 2002: The Angels chose Kendrick in the 10th round, out of St. John's River Community College in Florida.
January 19, 2010: Kendrick and the Angels avoided salary arbitration, agreeing on a one-year, $1.175 million contract.
January 18, 2011: Howie and the Angels avoided arbitration again, agreeing to a one-year, $3.3 million contract.
January 8, 2012: Kendrick and the Angels agreed on a four-year, $33.5 million contract extension. Howie was going into his final season of arbitration eligibility, so the deal buys out three seasons of his free agency.
December 11, 2014: The Dodgers sent LHP Andrew Heaney to the Angels, acquiring Kendrick.
January 29, 2016: Howie signed a two-year, $20 million pact to stay with the Dodgers.
Nov 11, 2016: The Dodgers traded Howie to the Phillies for 1B Darim Ruf and 2B Darnell Sweeney.
July 28, 2017: The Nationals sent P McKenzie Mills to the Phillies, acquiring Hendrick. As part of the deal, the Phillies sent cash to cover part of the $3.5 million remaining on Howie's $10 million salary.
Nov 2, 2017: Howie chose free agency.
Jan 15, 2018: The Nats signed free agent Kendrick to a two-year deal worth $7 million.
Dec 6, 2019: The Nationals signed veteran Howie Kendrick to a one-year contract worth $6.25 million, with a mutual option for 2021.
Oct. 28, 2020: Howie became a free agent.
- Dec 21, 2020: Howie announced his retirement from MLB as a player.